Monday, 12 September 2011

Toppers, Samers, Downers... and Oversharers

Just dropped son number one off for his first morning at big school, which means he is now part of the big wide world and will finally be exposed to playground politics. Social politics don’t change as we get older, comments may get a bit more sophisticated (“you smell like poopies” to “new perfume? Lovely”) but the rules are more or less the same.

Thanks to the plethora of random TV channels offered to me by my V+ box I have access to an ever increasing selection of American talk shows (much to the mans dismay, he’s always complaining that I use up all our space with my “tat” and there isn’t enough space for his UFC). Recently on “The Talk” (Darlene from Roseanne, Sharon Osbourne, and a couple of American sitcom actresses sitting around discussing their home lives. More fascinating that you’d think - did you know Sharon and Ozzy are at it 5 times a week?) they brought up the theory of Toppers, Samers and Downers.

The idea is that everyone is either a topper (someone who always has to one up the other person), a samer (someone who agrees wholeheartedly with everything you say) or a downer (someone who points out the negative). I’m not sure whether or not it’s actually that simple, people rarely fit into such neat boxes, but it’s quite interesting to try and spot toppers, samers and downers.

As one whose finger is always firmly on the pulse of social etiquette (ha)I would like to add a category, if I may. Oversharers. I was born an oversharer but over the years have managed to carefully cultivate a pretty solid tact mechanism, with one exception. As soon as I get some wine into me (truth juice) I’m right back there making people squirm in their seats with inappropriate stories.

If I’m with BFF or the man there is no such thing as oversharing, we are all samers. We tell each other everything anyway, and a big part of any close relationship is knowing everything about one another, when you give so much of yourself to someone it can’t help but strengthen bonds. But often when I don’t know someone so well, or am feeling uncomfortable, or there is a gap in the conversation, I’m likely to come out with a detailed birth story or two (or worse). It’s not just about trying to make myself feel more comfortable but also others, although it usually does the opposite. I’m, somewhat naively, trying to create that closeness that I have with people who know everything about me. If you know someone really well it’s hard to be uncomfortable around them. But oversharing in the presence of stubborn undersharers can make us overs fell quite ungainly and inelegant.

I could name at least one topper, samer, oversharer and downer in my life (but I won’t, that would be oversharing), and I personally have gone through phases of each. When wine is not involved I’m a pretty consistent samer, I like to think I’m the same as everyone else and I’m not very competitive. Being a samer also increases social bonds, it’s nice when everyone feels like they are going through the same thing. There’s nothing like being able to say to someone “I’ve had the hardest day” and them genuinely knowing what you’re on about. We all like to feel like we’re in the same boat.

But it depends on who I’m in conversation with. If I’m talking to a blatant topper I can easily slip into topping ways myself, there are some people that can make even the least competitive person feel a bit ruthless.

Within the mummy circle the subject of sleep is a constant source of topping. “Aloysius had me up five times last night, I had to have an espresso this morning” “That’s nothing, I haven’t slept for two weeks AND I’m allergic to caffeine, I’m running on pure adrenalin” There’s something about motherhood that makes people competitive. From the “my labour lasted 106 hours” or, on the flip side “I was only in labour for 15minutes AND I had a fourth degree tear” (lots of oversharing toppers when it comes to birth stories), it’s no wonder that kids arrive in the school playground and start trying to top each other (my dad is bigger than your dad). They have watched their mums do it from birth.

I fully expect son number one to be a topper, I think it’s normal at his age. Although having had such an uncompetitive mum he might have some ground to make up.

Do you think that people fit neatly into one of each category? Which one are you?

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